The end of Matthew 9 serves as a summary of what has happened with a transition sentence: Jesus longs for laborers to go out as he has done.
The Collect of the Day
Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
1st Reading (Track 1): Genesis 18:1-15 (21:1-7)
This story is rich in biblical fundamentals. The tendency is to focus on confusion regarding the “visitors.” Is it three men/angels (vv. 2-12) or the Lord himself (v.1, vv. 13-15)? Christians have seen the Trinity at work here, but that is surely not the agenda of the text. More important are two crucial matters: First, the biblical mandate of hospitality, a value of the highest priority. Second is the question, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” Abraham and Sarah are not ready to believe this in their advanced old age. They are “as good as dead” (Hebrews 11:12). Yet as we skip to chapter 21, the Lord defies their doubt and they laugh not in doubt but in joy. The birth of Isaac (whose name means “laughter”) is a critical moment in the biblical story. Without the possibility that God can shatter our impossibilities and make them new, there is, in fact, no biblical story at all.
18:1 The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. 3 He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5 Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” 7 Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. 8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate. 9 They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” 10 Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh;” for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”
[21:1 The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. 2 Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him. 4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” 7 And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”]
Psalm 116:1, 10-17 (Track 1)
Psalm 116 is a song of thanksgiving for deliverance from something that has threatened life itself. Part of the psalm’s vision is that fulfilling one’s vows to the Lord (a sacrifice of thanksgiving) brings salvation and freedom.
1 I love the Lord, because he has heard the voice of
my supplication, *
because he has inclined his ear to me whenever
I called upon him.
10 How shall I repay the Lord *
for all the good things he has done for me?.
11 I will lift up the cup of salvation *
and call upon the Name of the Lord.
12 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord *
in the presence of all his people.
13 Precious in the sight of the Lord *
is the death of his servants.
14 O Lord, I am your servant; *
I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;
you have freed me from my bonds.
15 I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving *
and call upon the Name of the Lord.
16 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord *
in the presence of all his people,
17 In the courts of the Lord’s house, *
in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah!
1st Reading (Track 2): Exodus 19:2-8a
After their escape from Egypt, the Israelites camped at Rephidim for a time. As chapter 19 begins, they are ready to start their journey through the wilderness. They travel until they reach “the mountain” (sometimes called Sinai, sometimes Horeb). Moses’ first trip up the mountain results in what we might call the “vision statement” for Israel: They will be God’s special people, a holy nation belonging to God and a priestly kingdom in God’s service. The commandments are yet to come, the means by which Israel will live (or not) into this vision.
19:2 When the people of Israel had journeyed from Rephidim, they entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain. 3 Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: 4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, 6 but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.” 7 So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8 The people all answered as one: "Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.”
Psalm 100 (Track 2)
Psalm 100 (familiar to generations of Episcopalians as the Jubilate from Morning Prayer) is a song of thanksgiving calling Israel to worship the Lord. Notice the seven invitations to worship: Be joyful, serve with gladness, come with song, know (proclaim) we are his, enter with praise, give thanks, and call upon him.
1 Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; *
serve the Lord with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.
2 Know this: The Lord himself is God; *
he himself has made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise; *
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.
4 For the Lord is good;
his mercy is everlasting; *
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.
2nd Reading: Romans 5:1-8
Paul has spent the first four chapters of Romans arguing the point that we are justified by faith and not by any works of the law. So, he says, here are the consequences of this truth. It is peace with God and the hope of sharing glory with God. This hope cannot disappoint, even in the face of suffering, because no matter our state, Christ died for us, proving God’s love.
5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 9:35—10:8 (9-23)
We pick up Matthew’s Gospel after the Sermon on the Mount (chs. 5-7) and a number of healing stories. The end of chapter 9 serves as a summary of what has happened with a transition sentence: Jesus longs for laborers to go out as he has done. Matthew begins chapter 10 with a “summoning” of the 12, who are named. They are then sent with specific instructions and a warning about potential suffering. The good news they are called to spread will not be received as good news by everyone.
9:35 Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” 10:1 Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.
[10:9 Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. 16 “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.]
The Scripture quotations (except for the Psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. All rights reserved. The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentaries are copyright © 2020 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study with this attribution. Digital bulletin inserts are available. Go to our website for more information (click on “subscribe”).